Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 'green' police

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 11:17 AM

While watching the Audi ad during the Superbowl, I got a laugh out of my friends by saying, "Oooo. Oooo. I wanna be part of the green police!" (My excitement waned once I realized it was a car commercial. Boo.)

Missed the commercial? Here it is:

No big deal, though; the game went on, the baby commercials kept us rolling and the Saints won. I kinda forgot about the green police commercial until I saw this OpEd in Grist (below).

At first blush this seems like more teabagging—appealing to angry white men with the same old stereotype of environmentalists as meddling do-gooders obsessed with picayune behavioral sins. If you check in the comments under the video, that perspective is well represented. Says Metallicafan6611, “You guys all laugh. But this is really going to happen. Wake up people!? Stop being sheep!” Enviros are predictably steamed (see, e.g., Adam Siegel).

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more the teabaggy interpretation just doesn’t quite fit. The thrill at the end, when the guy gets to accelerate away from the crowd, turns on satisfying the green police — not rejecting or circumventing them, but satisfying their strict standards. The authority of the green police is taken for granted, never questioned. If you’re looking to appeal to mooks who think the green police are full of it and have no authority, moral or otherwise, why would you make a commercial like that? Why offer escape from a moral dilemma your audience doesn’t acknowledge exists?

Anyway, not to overthink it (ahem), but the ad is not just another pot shot at greens. It’s an appeal to a new and growing demographic that isn’t hard-core environmentalist — and doesn’t particularly like hard-core environmentalists — but that basically wants to do the right thing. Audi’s effort to reach them, however clumsy, is actually a bit ahead of the curve.

Read the entire Grist.org post here.

Is the author, David Roberts, overthinking? Perhaps. You'd have to ask him. (Or read on, he suggests he's over-thinking the topic himself.)

I get where Roberts is going, though. I hear my paranoid, deep-South friends and family worrying about big government. I've received similar hate mail. I've spent large amount of times talking to those I love about the many benefits of making a green-ish effort (i.e. save money on your energy bill, reduce our country's reliance on foreign oil, encourage green-job growth, etc.).

Over time, I'm happy to report, I've noticed small changes. My grandparents, for instance, installed triple-pane windows. "It was cold in here," my grandma said. Yeah, it was — that's because cold air was pouring through her inefficient windows and her thermostat, set at 80, couldn't keep up.

My parents' house is full of energy-efficient lighting and they haul their recyclables to town. My husband no longer rolls his eyes when I buy locally grown groceries or extract a discarded milk jug out of the trash. He's also excited about the very green, American-made car we're about to purchase.

Listen, no one's perfect. I don't expect anyone to be all-green all the time. (I don't even set that standard for myself.) Small changes are, after all, still changes. When they're aimed in the right direction, all's well.

Like the author of the Grist post, I get that the Audi commercial was playing to those who want to do something to contribute to the green economy (i.e. by voting for a fuel efficient vehicle with their hard-earned dollars) but they don't want to glue a placard to their chest announcing their love of the environment and the green movement. Really, I get it. That's cool.

I figure if we all make an effort — no matter how large or small — that's a helluva lot better than not making any effort at all. I mean, do we really want to continue wasting money on inefficiency and foreign energy? That's not very American. Of course, neither is Audi.

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